Sunday, June 6, 2010

Black Swan?

The Beer: 8 Different styles. Irish Red, two IPA's, my own Liberty Ale, a Saison, A clone of an amber ale, a "kit beer" and a west coast ale. But I'm running low. Time to brew again.

The Bicycle: 65 miles on my trusty steed today. Preparing for Bike to Work Day on June 11...I work 40 miles away.

The VRWC: Dad29 indicates some think the Gulf Oil Spill is a "Black Swan Event". I disagree. At least based on what I have read here.

I spent many years in the Nuclear Power business, including the US Navy Nuclear Program. I now work in Environmental, Health and Safety. I've found there are no "Black Swans". Everything can be traced to some root cause that is related to a human error. I believe the BP/Transocean incident is no different. Keep in mind that I'm going on the assumption that NYT has the facts straight.

This dialogue between a Coast Guard investigator and the Captain (I use the term loosely, based on his statement) of the rig is telling:

“It’s pretty well understood amongst the crew who’s in charge,” he said.

“How do they know that?” a Coast Guard investigator asked.

“I guess, I don’t know,” Captain Kuchta said. “But it’s pretty well — everyone knows.”

This speaks to the first problem: Who is in charge? If no one is in charge, something gets missed.

Under a process called “alternative compliance,” much of the technology used on deepwater rigs has been approved piecemeal, with regulators cooperating with industry groups to make small adjustments to guidelines that were drawn up decades ago for shallow-water drilling.

"Alternative Compliance" should not be an option. You are either compliant with a standard or you are not. More to the point:

As BP engineers planned to set certain pipes and casings for lining the well in place in the ocean floor, they had to get permission from company managers to use riskier equipment because that equipment deviated from the company’s own design and safety policies, according to internal BP documents obtained by The New York Times.

When one speaks of the large scale risk associated with deep water drilling, deviating from company "design and safety policy" should also not be an option. When building a 25 hp gasoline engine for a lawn tractor, deviating on a breather hose is no big deal. On a deep water drilling rig, deviating from established design and safety policy points to the cutting of corners.

I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the article; I'm pretty sure you can read and understand. Just these items I have pointed out indicate this disaster could have (and should have) been forseen. There is enough human error here to fill a pretty good sized book. And not just on the part of BP and Transocean. But also on the part of the Feds, who should have been minding the store.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

It will be very, very interesting to see how this plays out when all the testimony (etc.) is in.

Remember, the NYT hires exceptional writers, if you're interested in highly selective quotations and context.

OTOH, BP does not look like a virgin here.